Hot Rock Cooking
This blog post accompanies our YouTube channel where you can watch this delectable dish unfold before your very eyes!
Heading in to the woods is good for your headspace. Whether you are exploring, just passing through or have a place in the woods to settle, work or rest, make time to enjoy it. And what better way to enjoy that time than with good food.
Campfire food is the best kind of food. Far better than a fancy restaurant in my opinion. On today’s adventures it was time for a special kind of lunch, hot rock cooking pancakes!
Pancakes might sound a bit mundane, but cooked the right way, they are transformed in to an awesome taste sensation!
Today was definitely the kind of day to head in to the woods, a crisp cool winter’s day but with beautiful sunshine. The trees are still bare but there are now early spring signals showing signs of life with green shoots below the deep leaf litter. And the birds are certainly starting to vocally make their presence known as winter draws to a close too.
After a great walk in to the woods with my dogs, I find one of my favourite spots. A place where I have landowner’s permission to have a fire, to camp, or to simply pass on through and appreciate as and when I wish. And for that I’m extremely grateful.
This spot is set off to the side of the large deciduous woodland in an area of previously coppiced hazel next to a stream. The dogs enjoy a little paddle as we head on in to this section of woodland before settling for lunch.
Being mainly hazel, there is plenty of dead standing wood which makes collecting firewood easy, especially with the many brash piles in this wooded section too.
Firewood now collected, it’s time for the initial spark. Today I am using shavings off of some fat wood I have bought with me, along with the reliable sparks of my trusty ferro rod.
As the shower of sparks rain on to the flammable fat wood the fire ignites in a satisfying burst of light. The crisp dry kindling lights easily after this winter’s dry weather. The dry dead hazel wood develops the heart of a campfire easily with satisfying crackles and the heat builds quickly.
While the campfire becomes fully established, I collect up my trusty cooking rock, a large chunk of York stone found here in the woods. Supporting it either side with silver birch logs cut from one of the brash piles, the rock is placed across the campfire.
This rock takes a while to heat up due to its dense nature, but the bonus of this is that it then holds its heat for far longer than thinner more fragile rock types.
As the rock heats up, it’s time for the first important job, coffee!
With the kettle filled with water and ground coffee, I balance it on to the embers so it starts to boil and brew. As the kettle works its magic I select some green hazel sticks to make the whisk for the pancake batter. When harvesting any green sticks from a tree I’m always sure to leave the tree with minimal disturbance to allow it to sprout and flourish, and remain unscathed.
Using my bushcraft knife of choice, the Bear Blades Forest 4 I scrape the bark off of the hazel sticks to reveal the smooth under layer, making it better for batter beating as well as a little more hygienic too.
The batter recipe was a standard one that I use at home;
1 cup of milk
1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder ……but with a few tweaks.
The first time hot rock cooking pancakes I soon discovered that a thicker batter was actually needed. I now use the above recipe, then add in extra flour, about another 1/2 cup, to give a thicker than normal batter.
Three peeled hazel sticks held together worked really well as a whisk. They need to be the same length and a similar thickness to be most effective I’ve found, and allow you to beat the batter in to a smooth consistency.
When the rock becomes nearly too hot to touch, this is a good time to start cooking. So first on goes the bacon. Proper smoked streaky bacon, from the local farm shop. Immediately the smell is amazing as the hot rock works its cooking magic as the bacon starts to making a satisfying sizzle.
I then slowly spoon the batter on to the rock. I find that doing this slowly allows it to form a layer at the base of the pancake, which helps it to hold its shape. Keeping the pancakes small, as American style pancakes usually are, helps when it comes to flipping and cooking evenly too.
Using my spatula, which is hand carved, because all the best cooking tools are aren’t they? I flip the bacon, which is now crisping up nicely….and smelling insanely good, and then gently ease the pancakes over too. Now with the bacon nearly cooked and crispy, and the pancakes browning nicely, there’s just time to pour another coffee, because there should always be time for coffee in the woods.
For added taste and texture I smothered the pancakes with some cool creamy butter, making the pancakes extra special and tasty. Of course the pancakes should be stacked, so once ready the now buttery pancakes were layered up and topped with the crispy smoked bacon, then drizzled with a cascade of sweet sticky syrup.
Let’s face it, the combination of syrup and smoky bacon is awesome at the best of times, but on top of campfire buttery pancakes? This is a whole new level of awesomeness!
As the butter melts and dribbles down the sides of the pan
cake stack…..and the pools of creaminess are met with the dripping syrup cascade…..
Now salivating wildly, there’s nothing else left to do but to sit, relax and feast! And man it tastes as good as it looks, no, in fact it tastes even better!
The smokiness of the campfire has raised the level of tastiness in the crisp streaky bacon. The pancakes are light and fluffy and evenly cooked throughout, and just taste simply incredible, especially with the addition of the butter. And the sticky syrup just pulls all of these cracking flavours together for one of the best woodland feasts so far. I can’t recommend this combination enough.
So, as my niece would say, “I love you more than pancakes” ……but she hasn’t tried these pancakes… yet! I don’t think she’ll love anyone more than THESE pancakes.